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Lindbergh Field to get full-body imaging scanners

Lindbergh Field is in line to receive full-body imaging scanners for its security checkpoints by summer, the federal Department of Homeland Security announced Friday.

“San Diegans understand the importance of remaining vigilant when it comes to public safety at our airport,” Mayor Jerry Sanders said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.

Airport security experts began to favor the scanning equipment after a man tried to blow up a commercial airliner headed to Detroit on Christmas.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam, allegedly tried to set off explosives in his underwear.

What makes the full-body scanners effective, the ability to see through clothes, raises the ire of privacy advocates. Opponents of the devices also claim the health risks are unclear.

The DHS tried to alleviate privacy concerns by saying the scanners will blur and immediately delete images. The operator of the equipment will be in a separate area and have no contact with passengers during the screening process.

San Diego is among 11 major airports — Los Angeles International and Oakland are also in the group — to receive scanners paid for with federal stimulus funds. The first is being installed Friday at Boston Logan International, and Chicago O’Hare is next.

LAX is among 19 airports that currently have at least one such scanner.

“By accelerating the deployment of the technology, we are enhancing our capability to detect and disrupt threats of terrorism across the nation,” DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said.

It was not immediately known exactly how many or when the full-body scanners would be installed at Lindbergh Field.